Category Archives: Food and Wine

München – Oktoberfest

The train ride from Lake Como to Munich was pretty uneventful. Of course the Alps are amazing, but I would have rather been riding my bike though them than gazing at them through the train car windows. Suppose that’ll have to wait until the next trip.

We arrived in Munich around 11pm. The initial plan was to drop our bags off at Dave’s apartment and head out for our first Bavarian Beer. Instead Dave took us directly to the HofbrauHaus with our bags in tow. Cool mix it up a bit, right?!

Munich - Oktoberfest

Well the real reason was Dave had to break the news to us that his roommate wasn’t exactly comfortable with 4 guys crashing at their place. Especially considering we were in town for Oktoberfest. I can’t blame here, considering this is scene after a full day of drinking multiple liters of beer.

So finding a room on such short notice is hard enough, let alone in Munich on the opening week of Oktoberfest. So we opted throw all of our bags into Dave’s car and head to Austria. He has a room in a college dorm in the town where he works. The other roommate was out of town so we were able to crash in his room as well. Sweet!

The drive should only take about 45 minutes on the Autobahn, but when you get pulled over by the Polizei twice for sobriety tests it seems to double your drive time. Let alone wondering if we are all going to spend the night in a German jail. The first stop was pretty darn nerve racking, not knowing the laws and what is acceptable alcohol levels. I’m sure I would have been fine for the US, but who knows about Europe. Dave’s beer wasn’t enough to cause for concern, but not exactly what you want to deal with at 2 AM.

We ended up spending the next 2 days in Kufstein. The second night we had one of the best meals of the my trip. Dave said the restaurant was some how attached to the town castle. The meal was a series of classic Bavarian food served family style and then was followed by a huge skillet of some pancake desert deal. Super tasty especially when accompanied with a few steins of Dunkel. Needless to say I was ready for hibernation at the end…

Jeremy pulled though for us and booked a room at the Courtyard Marriott near the train station. This was perfect considering most of the bus lines started out down here. We spent the next day at Oktoberfest. I didn’t realize how big this fair is, the number of rides actually is more than what Seebreaze has up all year round and this is only for 2 weeks. The beer tents are exactly what I expected, tables crammed together so close it’s almost impossible to pass, endless supply of beer, and of course the ladies and their Dirndls. You have to give props to who ever came up with this dress design.

Unfortunately, spending 10 hours drinking beer can have adverse side effects. Other than being tired, I felt fine, but the rest of the crew not so much. Needless to say, the hotel room was occupied for most of the day and in retrospect it was good we weren’t staying with Dave and his roommate.

John, Jeremy and James headed back to London on Saturday. I decided to stick around for a couple more nights to see more of Munich. The sight seeing turned out to be very little and instead we ended up heading back to Oktoberfest to enjoy the festivities.

I have to say going to the festival is as much fun as you would expect. I don’t believe it’s the sort of thing I would make a special trip for, but if you are in the area when the festival is going on you owe it to yourself to at least head over to the fairgrounds to see it in person. It’s really not all about the beer…

More Munich Photos

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Toscany…

Sorry it has taking so long to get you all up to date with my travels. Looking at the date stamped on these photos I seem to be 2 weeks behind. YIKES!

Well I spent two full days driving around Toscana with Allyson and her co-workers. We visited about 4 or 5 different hill towns, some super fancy hotels, and ran though all of the bike and hiking routes for their upcoming cycling trip that they lead the following week.

Tuscany

At times it felt a bit rushed, they had 6 days of activities to familiarize themselves with in the two days. But since they had to meet with various managers to verify accommodations, walk though each town to know exactly where important stuff was located, like food, ATMs, cool art and craft shops, so they could direct their guests in the right direction. I was able to break away and explore each area on my own. Thus it really worked out well.

The trips they run may seem a bit on the pricey side, this one was 6 days of cycling and ran around $4000. But after seeing the activities they have set up for the guest, the hotels where they are staying, some of the meals that were included, and the pure beauty of the area, it would take a lot of work on your part in planning to get something as nice as this for less money. So it looks like a pretty darn good deal to me.

For example, one of the night activities the group heads over to a winery (I don’t have the name…) and learn how to make their own Peace. It’s a type of pasta, I had it that night with Cinghiale (wild boar) sauce and it was very tasty. After that they head over to the tasting room to drink test out some of the wine, with the hopes they all buy multiple cases. Once that’s over then they sit down for a super deluxe meal. Now that is just one of the nights, there are only a few times throughout the trip which they have to fend for themselves. So yeah, pretty nice indeed.

Anyway, I was able to see some of the best spots in all of Southern Tuscany. I’m sure this is going to be an upcoming destination for a cycling trip of my own in the next couple of years.

So thanks to Allyson for letting me tag along and Raphael for introducing me to Grappa!

More Photos

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Firenze (aka, Florence)

Some tips from Firenze:

If you have a train ride which is going to take over 10 hours from one place to another your best do it overnight. Why?! Well you can sleep though most of it unlike an overnight flight you get your own fold out bed, albeit with 5 other people in the same compartment, this also saves your one night stay in an expensive hotel room. If you are a bit social, you may even meet some interesting people along the way… Pretty darn nice.

Firenze...
Now if that overnight trip lands you in the city say 5 hours before you are allowed to check into your hotel. Then go straight to the bathroom and clean yourself up (wash face, shave, brush teeth, change clothes, extra swipe of deodorant, etc.) Then check your bags into a locker and head out on the town.

If it’s Sunday and you find yourself in Italy then pretty much 2/3 of the city is going to be closed. So my suggestion, which is taken from a couple of girls I meet in Pairs, take one of the open top tour buses which rip though the city at mock speed. You get a pair of earphones to tune into the language of your choice and it gives you an overview of each attraction as you drive by. You can get on and off the bus at each place if you like to check it out, but I was using this to cool off, relax and check out what I would like to see in the next couple of days. If you like stay on the bus for multiple loops and listen to the tour in a different language, like Italian, you may learn a new word or two.

Okay enough with the tips for now…

I meet my friend Allyson at the train station, she was coming in from Utah and taking the train up from Rome. I’ve known her for quite some time, actually since grade school. I hadn’t talked to her since our high school graduation, but randomly got connected about 3 months ago though Facebook. Got to love geek social network software…

I wanted to take Florence in at an easy pace. We walked through Santa Croche Cathedral on the second day, had some of the best gelato in the city, and then walked for ever in the park and found a horse race track, and the velodrome which people were training on. The third day we walked though the Boboli Gardens and had more gelato, of course! We spend a lot of time just wandering though the city, and the food was just great fantastic…

I will be coming back to Florence in a couple of weeks with my friends John, James, and Jeremy (who I haven’t meet, but he’s John’s brother so we’re friends by association, right?!)

Check out more photos here.

Next up?! Tuscana: good wine, cheese, and ummm… more wine!!!

Paris Wrap Up…

I had a great time in Pairs and probably could have hung out for another few days, but it was time to move on and head out to Italy. I have finally uploaded photos from the last 3 days I was there.

Paris

I left the best restaurant to the last night of my stay. After reading Nicole’s review of Restaurant a L’Impasse I knew I couldn’t miss out. Well it took me over an hour to find the place, it’s sort of tucked down a little alleyway, but I was super disappointed once I got to the door and saw this sign! Damn, well one more thing to look forward to my next trip to Paris…

Anyone want to go?!

Be sure to check out the other photos, some great ones from the Eiffel Tower…

Brugge, Belgium – 08/20/2007 – 08/21/2007

The Eurostar train rocks! I had a table and two seats to myself. Along with a power connection for my laptop. Too bad they didn’t have internet access. The whole trip from London to Brugge only took 3.5 hours. The same amount of time it would have been consumed by fly, but with out the hassle of checking luggage and immigration, and other typical crap that comes with flying…

Brugge - Bike and a Door

More photos…

Belgium is know for it’s beer, chocolate, and good food. Well I can attest to the good beer and chocolate, for example Staminee de Garre brews it’s own Tripel and it’s SOLID. From what I have seen the food does look good, but I have been sticking to cheaper fair just because Brugge seems to be a bit of a tourist town which makes the food a bit over priced. But how can one go wrong with sausage, frijts and a tripel.

Brugge is a cute little town and it seems to be a day trip from most of the visitors. So at night this place is rather quiet, but that can also be due to me being here on Monday and Tuesday. It’s been a nice change from the busyness of London and NY…

The hostel is more like what I was expecting when it comes to hostels. I am in a room with 5 guys who are about 20 and are having a dinner of cookies and soda. NICE! Then came the shower, it was a freaking mess. Good thing for flip-flops! I hope the rest of them are more like the one in London.

Here are some more photos I have snapped over the past couple of days. Off to Brussels tomorrow.

London – Rest Day – 08/19/2007

Today I decided to hit up the National History Museum to see some Dinosaur bones. Well I made it in, but left after about 20 minutes. It was a mad house and would probably be better if I had a couple of younger kids in tow.

So I headed back to the hostel to send out some email and try to chat with the folks on Skype. Email worked as normal, but I couldn’t seem to get Skype to work with the headset I have. I may need to see if there’s something better out there, otherwise I will stick to pre-paid phone cards or just email and chat.

I meet up with Brian, Liz, and Brian’s Mother tonight for Fish & Chips and a movie. The fish & chips were spot on. Brian also reminded me that the food at the Windsor Castle Pub on Wednesday night was indeed good. And I have to agree, I think I may have been too tired to remember it, but my Bangers and Mash were top notch. Maybe I just need to get better recommendations from locals. Where is London’s Yelp!

Well I’m off to Brugge tomorrow morning. Looking forward to the Eurostar Train Ride to Brussels, apparently it get upwards of 200mph.

What no photos?! Well like I said it was a rest day…

London – National Gallery – 08/18/2007

Holy crap! I didn’t wake up until 10AM! That’s a full 12 hours of sleep YO! The last time I managed that I believe I may have been taking vicodin to cut the pain of getting my wisdom teeth pulled. So I would claim that it doesn’t count. And this time I only had 2 beers, did I mention that it’s super expensive to do anything here?

Round about in front of the London National Gallery

Today I decided to head over to the National Gallery to see the Rembrandt exhibit. I stepped into the The National Portrait Gallery first pretty much by accident, which I wasn’t too moved with what was mostly portaits of old English dudes. All of which I’m sure are really important figures in history, but not being a British history buff, it’s much like looking at portraits of my neighbors family tree. Not that interesting.

Then I stumbled upon the Princes Diane Exhibit. It’s very interesting to see how more relaxed and natural the photos were after their divorce. I guess they were trying to give her a better public image, which they obviously did. It’s really sad she died at such a young age.

Okay this is super strange, I’m writing this in the hostel and there is a couple down stairs in the computer area chanting and doing some weird hippy crap! You just don’t get this slice of life outside hostel living. Well maybe in Golden Gate Park, some of the other people are leaving the room. Too funny…

Anyway… Next was the National Gallery. Again trying to keep to my 1.5 hour museum limit I picked up a map and went to only the pieces I thought would have been interesting. Of course the Rembrandt Exhibit was first, then to Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Monet, Van Gogh. Now we’ve seen a ton of this stuff in books, but seeing the actual work is pretty neat. What really sets you back is some of these paintings are close to being 800 years old. I’m not kidding. The quality of these are truly amazing.

Okay now I know nothing about art. But I can tell when I like something. Actually I have heard someone a week back utter the words, “You know, I think Van Gogh was a phony”. Now I may not go that far, but I sort of agree with her that his work “Sunflowers” doesn’t seem to stand up to the likes of “Searport with the Embarkation of Saint Ursula”, by Claude. I believe I spent over 15 minutes alone trying to absorb the whole work.  See update:

After the Gallery I did some more wandering and happened upon the House of Guards, where they have some of the nicest looking horses doing miserable work. I don’t think the guard is very happy either, but they chose this gig. I’m guessing if you are late to work you get stuck out on the sidewalk like this as a punishment.

I stopped in St James Park to cop a squat and to listen to an hour of some local symphonic orchestra playing a free show. Good stuff, brings back wonderful memories of playing in my High School Band.

Tonight I decided to do dinner right, and stopped into an Italian Restaurant in South Kingston. Started it off with marinated olives and a glass of the house red. For the main course, Tagliatelle di Ragu Bolognese and another glass of the house red. The pasta was excelent, which is too bad because I didn’t save enough room for a piece of tarimsu. Anyway, all of that for only 16.80lbs. Nice huh? Yeah unless of course if you convert that to US dollars which is ~$40. But, I gave up on that about 3 days ago, and now everything feels cheap to me.

Update: I got the wrong guy, “Van Gogh is in now way a phony” it was “Picasso is a fake“. With that said, I still think Claude has some sick stuff…

Strike two…

Man, I picked the wrong holiday to stop sniffing glue.

The second pie was actually under cooked and super gooey inside. But, not in a good way. We made due with what was left of the first pass, and I 86′ed Pie 2.0 immediately. I’m going to blame the baking issues on the altitude and not my skillz. I’m a mad baker yo!

It doesn’t really matter, Kathryn’s Chocolate Pumpkin cake was delicious. Not to mention the fantastic meal they spent most of the day putting together.

Well I need to extend my hike tomorrow to ensure I work off all of the food I ate today! Can you say food coma? Right now I’m going to let the Turkey do it’s magic and drift off to deep sleep…

Pecan Pie 2.0

I’m up in Tahoe again this year to celebrate Thanksgiving with Christopher and Kathryn. Unfortunately, this is the first year in many where I am unable to go skiing on Thanksgiving morning. You can bet that the snow gods won’t be getting thanks from me this year.

I decided on a Chocolate and Kahlua Pecan Pie for my dinner offering. Well that and a few bottles of vino, we are avid consumers of the fermented grape. My initial plan was to bake the pie at home and bring up with me, but of course as the procrastinator I am it took me until Tuesday at 9pm to realize that I no longer own a hand mixer. Thus, the baking had to wait until I got to Tahoe.

My first attempt was started less than a half hour after I walked though the door. The pie filling is super easy to mix up and since I went with a pre-made pie crust the whole thing was assembled and in the oven in about 20 minutes. Not too bad, huh?! I set the buzzer for 45 minutes, and sat back with a glass of Zinfandel. The minute the buzzer went off, I went over to the oven to revel my master piece. It didn’t take long for me to notice I had burnt the crust. Not good, not good at all! Ohh well Kathryn had made a great looking cake, so it’s not like we would go without desert.

Just as were about to finish dinner and our 2nd bottle of wine, I said:

“What the hell, I have enough ingredients to make another pie. Let’s cut into this one and make sure it’s at least edible…”

To my surprise it tasted great. I suppose any desert that includes Chocolate and Kahlua, regardless if it’s over cooked, is bound to taste good.

So this morning I took a second pass at it. This time without wine in my hand, which can make it was easier to keep an eye on the pie as it bakes. Sure enough, Pecan Pie 2.0 came out much nicer than it’s predecessor. I’m willing to bet it’ll taste just a good if not better too!

Happy Turkey Day!

Rochester Visit

I’m back in Rochester, NY for an extended visit. Initially the plan was to come back for a 4 day weekend to attend, what is becoming an annual event, the West’s Buffalo Bills Game outing.

When I was booking the flight a few weeks back it dawned on me now that I’m an independent contractor I can pretty much take time off when I want to. So I decided to extend the stay for the whole week.

What I find strange is the lack of free wifi cafes in Rochester. With great schools like RIT1 and UofR you would think there would be a huge demand for coffee shops on every corner. I found one, the Spin Caffe, now it’s not nearly as nice as the Axis or Canvas Cafe in SF, but it has caffeinated drinks and outlets. So it works!

I’m planning on writing some reviews of a bunch of places on Yelp Yelp this week, for example Schaller’s Drive-in, Nick Tahoe’s, Chester Cab Pizza, etc. The info on Rochester is seriously lacking, and this place has a lot to offer.

1. Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is my alma mater

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